Hancock County News

Holland vs Spalding for Hancock Co. Commissioner in District 3

Voters in Hancock County will have a choice in the Republican Primary for County Commissioner District 3 this season between two candidates well versed in law enforcement. 

 

Matt Holland, of the Greenfield Police Department, is going against Bill Spalding, a veteran with the Indiana State Police, to see who will represent District 3, which consists of Blue River, Brandywine and Sugar Creek townships. Brad Armstrong, the incumbent, opted not to run for re-election.
If campaigning in a normal world is tough, both candidates admit the COVID-19 global pandemic has only made things tougher.


Holland told Giant FM, in past campaigns, he was able to rely on going to meetings to talk with voters, go door to door and debate his opponents.


“All of these methods are pretty non-existent during this campaign. Therefore, I have leaned heavily on social media outreach, door hangers and yard signs. However, what the pandemic has effected even more so is the priorities that we will be facing, if elected. The top priority for me is now to help get citizens back to work and to do this in a way that is safe and healthy,” Holland said.
Spalding echoed those sentiments.


“Where once “meet and greets,” in-person fundraisers and talking with the public face to face were the norm, we have been forced to take different approaches like using social media platforms to get the word out,” Spalding told Giant FM.


With a tougher primary to wade through due to the pandemic, both candidates have a clear message to voters, which is to get out and vote.


“My message to voters is to find a way to vote. Don’t take for granted the powerful right to vote and select the person that represents you in government. If you don’t want to be exposed to health concerns, then please request an absentee ballot. I just encourage the voters to research their candidate’s platform and choose who they believe is best suited to represent them and to be their voice,” Holland told Giant FM.


Spalding said his message is to vote in accordance with the state’s plans.


“If you would still like to vote in person, you can, during early voting until June 1 or by voting on June 2, Primary Day,” Spalding said.


Both candidates are quite familiar, however, with the process of running for office and admit they have learned from prior attempts to seek office.


Spalding told Giant FM this campaign has allowed him an opportunity to assess his last campaign.
“As a first responder, I get an up-close view of our mental health problems. I’m concerned about the lack of mental health resources available to people in need. As part of my approach for providing for public safety throughout the county, addressing mental health must be a part of the solution,” Spalding said.


Holland, who ran in 2016, said his prior run helps by allowing him to know what to expect and build relationships with people he met four years ago.


“I have always been heavily involved in helping the community through sitting on multiple boards and collaborating with many community organizations for the past several years. This is something that I just enjoy doing and comes natural and genuinely for me. It helps because people know that I have been involved for many years because that is just who I am. I didn’t just become involved during campaign seasons,” said Holland, who has served on the Sugar Creek Township Board for over five years.


Mental illness and the possible creation of a Veteran Court have been issues discussed in recent months and years.


Both candidates acknowledge they will advocate for those impacted by mental illness.
“I will ensure that the programs that are being proposed at the county level stay on course and are implemented,” Holland said.


Spalding told Giant FM he met with Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton to get his “expert opinion” on a veteran’s court.


“It is believed that, without creating more government, we can still help veterans through our existing special court working in conjunction with the Veteran’s Administration. Like veterans with mental health problems, many other people suffer with mental issues. Traditional incarceration is likely not the best solution, therefore, we must make available non-traditional programs and long-term therapy options. Access to this type of early intervention will cost the county less in the long run,” Spalding told Giant FM.


In addition to mental health, the two say there are also plenty of issues facing Hancock County.
Holland said it is important to help being a catalyst and not a barrier to get through the COVID-19 pandemic and help citizens and businesses get back to work.


“Completing ongoing road improvement projects, healthy and positive economic development, ensuring the new jail construction project stays on time and within budget, improving mental health accessibility and revisiting requirements for tax abatements are the priorities that I am most concerned about. All of these are priorities that need equal attention to keep Hancock County moving in a positive direction,” Holland said.


For Spalding, the addition of another court to help ease caseloads is one of the biggest issues he sees.


“Currently, there are three judges that serve. As the county continues to grow, there will, likely, be a future need to request from the General Assembly permission to create an additional court,” he said.
And, both men believe they are the right one for the job, pointing to experience as the reason why voters should vote for them.


“I am the only candidate for Hancock County Commissioner in District 3 that has experience serving in a local, governing position. Sugar Creek Township has top of the line fire service employees, equipment and facilities all while maintaining fiscal responsibility, having become completely debt free in 2020,” Holland said.


Holland told Giant FM Sugar Creek Township recently completed a new fire station by paying cash and not taking on additional debt.


“This station was completed on time and under budget. I plan to bring this type of fiscal conservatism to the Board of Commissioners. I am genuinely involved in the community and have been for at least the past 12 years and will continue to e. I haven’t just shown up during campaign times in order to try and win an election,” Holland said.


Spalding told Giant FM he has a vision for a “vibrant and growing Hancock County.”


“I have strong relationship-building skills. I have experience managing property and people. I have been the chairman of church property at Zion Lutheran Church and School for the last four years, a $1.5 million property. I understand aspects of maintaining and building facilities, dealing with budgets, contracts and insurance, and cooperating with others. I’ve also been a squad leader for 18 years with the Indiana State Police and have the ability to manage people, resources and ideas well. I believe through wisdom, understanding and discernment, I can provide sound, thoughtful government to the people of Hancock County,” Spalding told Giant FM. 

Thieves seen on camera at New Pal businesses

As a small business owner, Rob Walker understands the risks and challenges that come with his role. What he cannot understand, though is why thieves targeted his business recently.


According to Walker and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, thieves struck both New Palestine Hardware and Walker-IT LLC, 4083 S. Arbor Lane, on May 20.  Video shows two men stealing several items, including propane tanks, potted plants, items from a truck and more. According to a police report, the suspects did an estimated $60,000 worth of damage and stolen property.


Walker told Giant FM that this is the first time he has had anyone break into vehicles, destroy property and vandalize property.


“There have been property stolen in the past, but never to this level. Our community is extremely safe and crimes like this rarely happen,” Walker said.


Walker said he and the staff of both businesses are happy that nobody was hurt in the incidents.
“We, at Walker-IT and New Palestine Hardware, are just happy that no one was hurt and hope that no one else is affected by these people who choose to go against the rule of law and order. Our prayers go out to everyone who is affected during this virus. As always, we will continue to serve the community,” Walker said.


Anyone with any information is asked to call the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department at 317-477-1147.

June 1 meeting to unveil Arbor Homes proposal to build in Fortville

Could Fortville be growing?

 

It is possible, as the Fortville Town Council recently took the first step, approving first reading of a voluntary annexation from Byers Farm LLC of 112 acres, which could be destined for 328 homes.
Earlier this month, Adam Zaklikowski, planning director for Fortville, introduced the proposal by Arbor Homes to build the homes, which have a minimum lot size of 60 by 125 feet, in the northeast corner of North Fortville Pike and County Road 850 North.


Officials from both Fortville and Arbor Homes are working on layout and standards for the project, which still needs approval from both the town council and the Fortville Plan Commission.


On June 1, residents will have an opportunity to see the layout and standards and ask questions. The meeting is slated for 7 p.m.


While the project has cleared the first hurdle, it still needs to more approvals and a public hearing, as well as consideration of the financial impact it will have on the town.


“The annexation is the first piece. The way the law works, you need to have 12.5 percent of the external boundary to touch current town limits, and it meets that requirement. We are currently working with Arbor Homes on the layout and development standards for the project. We anticipate to send that to the Plan Commission in June for their review,” Zaklikowski said. 

Southern Hancock to make 'virtual school' available

As Indiana continues to climb out of the COVID-19 restrictions imposed by local and state officials, there has been much speculation about what August will look like when students return to school.


The Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County is trying to make the transition back to the classroom as smooth as possible for students and parents, as they announced recently the implementation of a full-time online curriculum (virtual school) for families who wish to keep their children home to mitigate the risk for their children or family.


In an e-mail to parents, superintendent Dr. Lisa Lantrip said, “We believe it is critical to offer a variety of educational opportunities for families based on the health of their students and other family members.”


Wes Anderson, community relations manager for the district, told Giant FM the idea of the virtual school is the result of a realization that parents may have reservations in August.
“We understand those concerns and want to still be able to provide them with the same quality Southern Hancock education,” Anderson said.


Anderson said it is the district’s hope that parents will be able to see the intent is to continue to provide the best education possible for all students in all situations during the COVID-19 pandemic.


“The virtual school’s curriculum will be full E-Learning. However, we are still evaluating other options for the start of school that may include part-time E-Learning for some students. Those decisions have not been finalized yet,” Anderson told Giant FM.


The district is still working on finalizing registration info, and Anderson said the district hopes to have that out to the public as soon as possible.


“We understand this is a short summer and want to move as quickly as possible to get a quality virtual curriculum ready for students for 2020-21,” Anderson said. 

Hancock County sets dates to hold 4H Fair events

The good news – it now looks like there will be a Hancock County Fair this year.

 

The bad news – it will be unlike any other fair.
 

After weeks of discussions and speculations, the Hancock County Agricultural Association voted in favor of having all events related to 4-H at the fair, which will be July 10-17.  However, that is all that will take place, as there will no vendors, no food, no rides and no other events.  The only events that will take place are those that need judged by 4-H judges.
 

Those in attendance will have to adhere to social distancing and other mandatory precautions, and anyone attending will be subject to tracking for the purposes of COVID-19 tracing. The information will then be turned over to the Hancock County Health Department.

 

While there will be judging taking place, there is no decision yet as to what each event will look like.
 

Officials are asking for patience from those who may attend.
 

“Please be patient at this time, as we do not have all the answers you may seek,” Hancock County Agricultural Association president Josh Phares and Purdue Extension Hancock County director Brian Greer wrote in a letter.
 

The two hope to have more concrete answers in the near future.
 

Officials have said the 4-H Exhibit Hall will be open for limited hours and attendance. Any project would be evaluated through a closed judging process. The arena will be open during animal events.
 

While that much is known, the fair is still an uncertainty, as officials wait to see if Hancock County will be part of the Stage 5 reopening, which is slated to begin July 4.
Under Stage 5, large events with more than 250 people attending can be held.


Recently, Casey Mull, assistant director of extension, 4-H Youth Development Program Leader, and Jason Henderson, Director of Extension, reached out to families stating events will have to comply with social distancing guidelines, daily screening of employees and volunteers working on behalf of the extension, and other health and safety restrictions.
Greer told Giant FM that because Indiana 4-H is a Purdue-sponsored organization, all decisions regarding postponement or cancellation of events due to COVID-19 are made at the institutional level.
 

“At this moment, I can’t say what exactly the fair will look like. As for whether the fair will be safer, Purdue Extension and the Hancock County 4-H are committed to ensuring the health and safety of all of our 4-H families and public fair goers. Thus, we follow guidelines provided to us by Purdue University leadership and public health officials,” Greer told Giant FM.

 

 

Proposed Fortville riverfront district stays on agenda until June

After months of questions and discussions, the Fortville Town Council has pumped the brakes on the implementation of a riverfront district in town.  Earlier this month, officials approved first reading of the district, but recently, the town tabled the measure until June.


“We’re in no big hurry. There’s no development yet,” councilman Fritz Fentz said before officials opted to take the measure up at the June 15 meeting.


Indiana law allows municipalities to create a riverfront development district within a redevelopment area. While there is no river in Fortville, officials are using parts of a creek and ditches throughout town for the distinction. The state does have a stipulation that districts have to be within 1,500 feet of a waterway, however, what constitutes as a waterway is open to interpretation.


On May 4, the council picked back up with the discussions as Fortville’s planning and building director, Adam Zaklikowski, reminded council the primary reason for seeking the riverfront district was to allow for additional alcohol permits throughout town. Council voted in favor of first reading, but not before a no vote by councilman Robert Holland and plenty of discussion.


“We are almost at max capacity, and this is a legal way to do it,” Zaklikowski said.


There are three kinds of permits available to restaurants – beer, beer and wine and beer, wine and spirits. Fortville is currently at its max on permits, which are not transferable and do not allow for carryout.


The Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, may, upon recommendation of the town, issue a non-transferrable permit to the proprietor of a restaurant or event venue for the purpose of selling alcoholic beverages within the boundaries of a riverfront development district.


The Fortville Redevelopment Commission determined the creation of the district will help remove barriers to development in the downtown business district. The riverfront district will operate in Fortville’s TIF district, which spans along much of Broadway Street and Maple Street/Fortville Pike. The RDC oversees the TIF district.


Under the ordinance, the RDC shall determine if an applicant will receive a letter requesting the ATC’s approval through several steps. Those steps include: the proprietor submitting a letter of request to the RDC explaining the need for the permit, the type of business and the square footage of the building. The RDC will also conduct a public hearing and a notice shall be posted on the site a minimum of 10 days in advance of the hearing. Furthermore, in making its decision of approval or denial, the RDC will consider the proprietor’s reputation and business plan, if the business is focused on a dining and/or entertainment experience rather an alcohol-based consumption experience and whether the business will be detrimental to nearby property values. Finally, the business will further the intent of perpetuating Fortville as an enjoyable, mixed use small town atmosphere for residents and visitors alike and can draw new business activity to the town, be located within the TIF district, the RDC shall provide approval to the proprietor and ATC and annual renewals and complaints shall be reviewed by the RDC. The ATC will automatically renew a permit if there is no notification from the RDC. Should a complaint be filed, the RDC will hold a public hearing to discuss the complaint with the permit holder and remonstrators, and will notify the ATC of its findings.


For Holland, the fact that final approval rested with the RDC and not the Fortville Town Council was a sticking point and the reason for his no vote.


“I really feel like final approval of this should come through the council. I have no issue with the RDC looking at this, and, if there is something not right, if they want to go to the petitioner, I am okay with that. Since this is brand new, I really want council to have the final say on it,” Holland said.
Scott Meyer, a member of the RDC, told Holland and council the RDC’s involvement gives the process a sense of being out of any realm of political controversy.


“The RDC all agreed this needs to be a one visit, one stop, one answer place for the person to come. It has nothing to do with any of the council members. I don’t think there’s going to be a whole lot of these that come to the RDC. I don’t think we are looking at 15-20 or even 10 of these opportunities to present themselves. We are trying to make it as easy as possible and take politics out of it,” Meyer said.


Council member Libby Wyatt stated her main concern was knowledge of what was happening in town.


Holland agreed, asking what would happen if council was not in favor of something and the RDC is, what would happen next and vice versa.


“I don’t think anyone will go unheard. If the full RDC is in favor, that will be the decision,” Meyer said.
Holland countered by saying he still believed the final decision should be with the council, stating as the ordinance is current written, there is no veto power for the council.


“If that’s your concern, then you’ll have to vote RDC out. If you want final say, then you should have only say. It is an issue either way but it is a matter of working together,” Meyer said.

Hancock Co.to keep looking at logistics of holding 4H fair

For those awaiting word on the status of the Hancock County Fair, they will have to wait a little while longer.


Brian Greer, Purdue extension educator for 4-H/youth development, notified Hancock County residents and 4-H participants Friday that the Hancock County 4-H is holding off on an announcement surrounding the fair until early next week.


“Why? There are many factors and considerations that must be addressed before we can provide a detailed plan for our county’s fair… The 4-H Ag Association and I will be meeting next Monday to discuss how the fair will proceed given the latest guidelines from campus. I ask for your patience while we sift through all the new information we have just received,” Greer wrote.


Purdue officials responded with a letter of their own, as Jason Henderson, Director of Extension, and Casey Mull, assistant director of extension, 4-H Youth Development Program Leader, both reached out to families.


“Purdue Extension will continue its current policy of no in-person events through June 30, 2020.

 

Beginning July 1, Purdue Extension will permit in-person events that comply with Indiana’s Back on Track plan,” they wrote.


They did write that large events with more than 250 persons attending can only be held when the county has Stage 5 and added that such events must comply with social distancing guidelines, daily screening of employees and volunteers working behalf of the extension, and other health and safety restrictions.


At this moment, the Hancock County 4-H Fair is slated for July 10-17.


Greer told Giant FM that because Indiana 4-H is a Purdue-sponsored organization, all decisions regarding postponement or cancellation of events due to COVID-19 are made at the institutional level.


“At this moment, I can’t say what exactly the fair will look like. As for whether the fair will be safer, Purdue Extension and the Hancock County 4-H are committed to ensuring the health and safety of all of our 4-H families and public fair goers. Thus, we follow guidelines provided to us by Purdue University leadership and public health officials,” Greer told Giant FM.

Greenfield to build new wastewater treatment plant; rate increases

The city of Greenfield is moving ahead with plans on a huge investment that will impact residents in more ways than one moving forward. 

 

Officials have unveiled and approved plans to build a new wastewater treatment plant, which comes with a price tag of about $39 million, and is deemed necessary to stay in compliance with requirements with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.


Nicholas Dezelan, wastewater utility manager, told Giant FM, the process for the new plant began two years ago, but on April 1, 2020, the city received a letter of noncompliance from IDEM for repeated ammonia violations, something the town is working to get in compliance. Dezelan told Giant FM a recent study showed several things to the city of Greenfield, including the need for an expansion of the plant, which is located at 809 S. Street and takes care of all the city’s residential and commercial water use.

 

 

Dezelan said the hope is construction will be underway next year and by Oct. 1, 2022 it needs to be online and ready to go for the city.

 

Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell said the upgrades were necessary, especially as growth continues to come to his city.

 

 

Fewell said he knows there is never a good time to raise rates, but he admits Greenfield has been working on this project for two years. Fewell said he understands some residents are financially strapped during this period, but residents had an opportunity to speak out against the measure.

 

 

Mike Fruth, director of utilities for Greenfield, echoed Fewell’s statements, saying it is vital the town maintains the plant and makes improvements for the next generation.

 

 

The city is paying for the project with bonds through a rate increase for Greenfield utility customers.

The new rates will hit customers July 1 and will be stretched out in three steps over two years. After the initial increase in July, residents will see an increase in March 2021 and January 2022.

 

According to city officials, a small residential customer using 1,000 gallons of water in a month would see their rates increase from $19.77 to $36.89 in 2022. In July, the rate will be set at $4.42 per 1,000 gallons, and increase to $5.22 next March and then $5.90 in January 2022.

New Pal HS sets graduation date; schools named for new housing

After months of speculation and questions on social media, the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County officially has a graduation plan for its 2020 seniors.


At Monday’s board meeting, officials voted in favor of an in person graduation ceremony on Saturday, July 11 at 10 a.m. The ceremony will take place at Kelso Stadium. Based on Governor Eric Holcomb’s plans to reopen the state, district officials announced each family will receive four tickets to the ceremony to ensure proper social distancing measures are followed. In addition, the tickets will permit admittance to a specific section of the Kelso Stadium bleachers.


District officials have said families will be required to sit in the section of the bleachers indicated on their tickets. Furthermore, graduates will also sit six feet apart on the football field.


Should the event get rained out, a second attempt to hold commencement will be held at 5 p.m. on July 11. If the weather does not permit a Saturday ceremony to be held, a third attempt will be held on Sunday, July 12, at 1 p.m.


Should that not work, a virtual commencement will be held at 1 p.m. on July 12. Additional information will be sent to seniors and their families at a later date, according to district officials.
Wes Anderson, director of community relations and communications, told Giant FM, the district’s hopes was to have an in-person ceremony.


“Our goal during this process was to make every attempt to have an in-person ceremony. We consulted with our seniors. They made it clear they wanted an in-person ceremony, if possible. We have created multiple weather contingencies to get this ceremony in over the course of the scheduled weekend,” Anderson said.


In other board news, the district approved a request from superintendent Dr. Lisa Lantrip to assign two new housing additions to their future elementary schools.


For families who will live in Grant’s Corner, which will be at the intersection of U.S. 40 and County Road 700 West, their students will attend Sugar Creek Elementary.


Families who will live in Cooperstone, located at the intersection of County Road 500 West and County Road 200 South, their children will attend Brandywine Elementary. 

Cumberland convenience store robbery may be tied to others in Hancock Co.

Cumberland Police are looking for three men who held up a convenience store.

 

Three men held up the Speedway gas station on North German Church Road April 13, according to Crime Stoppers.

 

The trio emptied the cash register and stole cigarettes before running away. One of the men had a black handgun, according to police.

 

All three suspects are described as black males in their late teens or early 20s.

 

Police believe they may be connected to other recent robberies in Hancock County.

 

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 317-926-8477.

Apartment fire closes Greenfield pizza restaurant

A popular Greenfield pizza restaurant has been forced to shut its doors for the unforeseen future due to a fire in an upstairs apartment.


Greenfield firefighters responded to a call Saturday morning of a fire in the first block of West Main Street, which houses Hometown Classic Pizza and an apartment. Officials with the Greenfield Fire Territory said the fire started in the upstairs apartment due to smoking. One person was in the apartment when the fire began and was able to escape unscathed, however, a pet died in the fire. The apartment was deemed a complete loss.
 

Owners of Hometown Classic Pizza turned to social media to let customers know their business will be closed temporarily as they assess damage and make repairs.
 

“To all our customers, there was a fire in the upstairs apartment apparently due to a lit cigarette. No one was injured thank goodness. Thank you so much to the Greenfield firefighters. The pizza shop has suffered water damage... We will be shut down temporarily to assess damage and make repairs ,” they wrote.

New date for Hancock Co. 4-H Fair to be announced this week

While there are many uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, one thing is for certain – the Hancock County 4-H Fair will have a new date.


Recently, officials announced last week the fair will be moved from its June date, and that, while it is moved, it is not cancelled. Officials are slated to announce new dates on April 21.


Brian Greer, Purdue extension educator for 4-H/youth development, told Giant FM, this is the first time he has had to reschedule and re-plan for such a large event.


In a letter to 4-H members and families, officials with Purdue’s Extension 4-H Youth Development stated that all face to face events would be banned until June 30, 2020.


“We do not take this decision lightly. The health and well-being of the 4-H’ers, families, volunteers, employees and communities is our top priority. Our hearts break in your disappointment. Right now, and always, 4-H Youth Development will continue to provide opportunities for youth to learn, grow, develop skills and showcase and celebrate their achievements. We will try new things and relate to each other in innovative ways. We will harness the resilience and determination 4-H has taught us, and we will stand in awe of the individuals and communities 4-H has built,” the letter read.


Greer wrote his own letter to Hancock County 4-H families and has held a Facebook live session to answer questions by families.


“Since Indiana 4-H is a Purdue-sponsored organization, all decisions regarding the postponement or cancellation of events due to COVID-19 are made at the institutional level,” Greer told Giant FM.
As for what the fair could look like under new dates, and, potential new guidelines, Greer told Giant FM he is unsure.


“At this moment, I can’t say what exactly the fair will look like. We are still developing a plan. We will announce the new fair dates and schedule April 21. As for whether the fair will be safer, Purdue Extension and the Hancock County 4-H are committed to ensuring the health and safety of all our 4-H families and public fair-goers. Thus, we follow guidelines provided to us by Purdue University leadership and public health officials,” Greer said. 

NYC murder, local drug charges in Hancock County arrest

A NYC murder suspect has been caught in Hancock County.

 

On Tuesday, April 14, at 12:10 pm PACE Team Sergeant James Goodwin of the Henry County Sheriff’s Department was patrolling westbound Interstate 70 near the Hancock County / Henry County Line near the 113 mile marker. Sgt. Goodwin observed a white Honda Civic with a New York license plate. This vehicle committed multiple marked lane violations prompting Sgt. Goodwin to perform a license plate inquiry. The license plate came back with a wanted hit for felonies and the occupants were deemed armed and dangerous. 

 

Sgt. Goodwin radioed his dispatch and coordinated a multi-agency response to converge on his location to safely conduct a high risk felony apprehension stop. This was done to ensure the safety of the occupants and the safety of the other motoring public. 

 

Sgt. Goodwin was then met by multiple other law enforcement agencies where he coordinated the apprehension at the 109 mile marker along westbound interstate 70 in Hancock County. The driver fled for a couple miles while traveling westbound on interstate 70 before pulling over. 

 

The driver Muhammad Habib age 24 of Jamaica, NY was arrested without incident and was wanted for multiple felonies out of New York namely, Murder in the Second Degree related to the stabbing homicide of 43 year old victim, Wycliffe Gentles, which occurred on Monday, April 13, 2020 within the confines of Queens County, NY.

 

The female passenger, Khusbu Patel age 22 of Queens, NY was also arrested without incident on local charges for multiple drug violations.(See below).  

 

Sgt. Goodwin and Sgt. Ernstes of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Dept. searched the white Honda Civic and found two pounds of suspected marijuana, suspected crack cocaine, multiple packages of illicit pills and heroin. 

 

Detective McFarland of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Dept. was also called to the scene where she conducted a searched incident to arrest of the female passenger Khusbu Patel and found that she was concealing suspected narcotics in her clothing. 

 

The felony warrant from New York had just been active on April 13th, 2020 by NYPD's Queens Homicide Detectives and Detectives of the 103 Precinct in Queens County. 

 

The occupants were allegedly traveling from New York to Missouri. The investigation is ongoing at this time. 

 

Multiple law enforcement agencies assisted in the felony apprehension including the Indiana State Police, Knightstown Police, Henry County Sheriff, Hancock County Sheriff and the Shirley Police Department. 

 

Muhammad Habib was arrested and is being held in the Hancock County Jail pending a warrant for Murder in the Second Degree and associated charges, in Queens County, New York. 

 

His local charges include:

Dealing Marijuana

Possession of Cocaine

Possession of Heroin

Possession of Controlled substance (1)

Possession of a Controlled Substance (2)

Resisting Law Enforcement

 

Khusbu Patel is also being held in the Hancock County Jail and her charges include:

Possession of Cocaine

Possession of Heroin

Possession of Controlled substance (1)

Possession of a Controlled Substance (2)

Dealing Marijuana

New Palestine Town Council says town employee violated COVID-19 declaration

Another meeting, another embarrassment for New Palestine town officials.
 

Recently, town officials acknowledged that its own clerk-treasurer had violated a declaration of local emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak, thus prompting officials to extend the declaration by another 30 days.


In the same month the town council censured Tonii Pyle, the clerk-treasurer, council hit Pyle with an allegation of violating an emergency order, which stated only employees could be inside town hall.


Town council president Brandee Bastin said she sent an email to all employees, stating what the restrictions were.Bastin said the email stated that only employees were allowed inside the buildings and the town’s community room was closed to the public except for town council meetings.


“It’s clear what it means to me,” Bastin told council.
 

Fellow council member Bill Niemier said he thought council was “dancing around” who was in violation and asked how the emergency declaration was not followed.
 

“We had somebody that was public in town hall that was allowed in town hall in two separate occasions where it was stated nobody from public be allowed. We had a town employee allow public access after it was said no public allowed. The executive order was not followed. How is it enforced,” council member Angie Fahrnow said.
 

Bastin dug in her heels on the emergency declaration.
 

“I don’t feel like this order says I can bring my children in here or anyone else in here. I’m an elected official, and I don’t feel like it tells me I have an exception and can bring anyone into the building,” she said.
 

However, it wasn’t clear to Pyle, who, according to council, brought former clerk-treasurer Becky Hilligoss and a small child to town hall on two occasions and allowed them access to her office.

 

Earlier this year, the town council terminated a contract drawn up between Hilligoss and Pyle and made it Hilligoss was not to be allowed back to assist Pyle.
 

As a result, a no trespass notice was given to Hilligoss.
 

“If that person comes back a third time in violation, they would be arrested,” Niemier said.

Greenfield-Central schools busy with renovation projects

Despite school being placed on hold due to COVID-19, it remains full steam ahead for construction and renovation projects at Greenfield-Central schools.


Last year, the district approved plans to spend approximately $13 million to upgrade portions of each of its eight buildings through a general obligation bond.


Superintendent Dr. Harold Olin told Giant FM recently that things are moving.


“Construction is moving along as expected. All in all, we are happy with the progress so far. The Performance Services Team has managed this well so far,” Olin told Giant FM.


On the list are renovations to both Greenfield-Central High School and Greenfield-Central Junior High.


At the high school, work is being done to expand the school’s music classes, along with a new training room, weight room and locker rooms for the athletic programs, and a new greenhouse. In addition, there are plans for a new access road for buses between Franklin Street and a small parking lot next to the greenhouse.


“The high school greenhouse should be finished in the next two weeks. The structural steel is in place for the weight room, training room and coaching offices. The girls and boys locker rooms are a little behind the weight room side, though it is still on schedule,” Olin told Giant FM.


At the junior high, work continues on the auxiliary gym.


“The junior high auxiliary gym has three sides complete, so it is easy to see the footprint for that facility,” Olin said.


Greenfield Intermediate School, Eden Elementary School, Harris Elementary School, JB Stephens Elementary School and Weston Elementary School will all see some renovations, as well.


“We have been doing some chiller work at Greenfield Intermediate, Harris, Weston, JBS and Eden. The parking lots at Eden and the junior high school were not scheduled to be dune until June, though, we may speed up those projects in light of the campus being closed to students until May 1. The JBS roof will still remain a summer project,” Olin told Giant FM.


Olin did say that while COVID-19 has presented some issues, there may be some good to come out of it as it may allow construction crews an opportunity to get more work done without students, faculty, staff and parents in the buildings.


“It is actually one of the few positives related to the students being off-site. It could potentially speed up the bathroom renovations in a few sites,” he said. 

New Palestine Town Council votes to waive late fees and penalties during COVID-19

New Palestine’s elected officials understand times are tough for its residents, who may be financially impacted during the COVID-19 outbreak.  As a result, the town council recently voted in favor of waiving late fees and penalties when it comes to the town’s sewer and utility bills.


Town council president Brandee Bastin told council there were a couple of phone calls that came into town hall pertaining to the situation.


“There are many different opinions as to what is the end date of the public crisis,” Bastin said.


Council member Bill Nieimer told council if a family were struggling with a decision to pay the utility bill or buy groceries, he would want them to buy the groceries.


However, not everyone was sold on the measure.


Councilman Clint Bledsoe accused council of being in favor of allowing residents to not pay their bills.


“You’re agreeing to let everyone not pay their sewer bill until the emergency is over? It’s just like if I’m late on my sewer bill, I have to pay a 10 percent penalty. If I don’t have to pay any penalties, I’m not paying my sewer bill. I don’t like this,” Bledsoe said.


Bastin said the bill would still accrue for the customers, and noted that other agencies that typically help residents are also strapped financially due to the outbreak.


The measure passed 4-1 and will be in place until there is further discussion on when the emergency is lifted by Gov. Eric Holcomb. Bledsoe voted against the measure. 

Greenfield man injured in two-car crash in Tipton Co.; fog probable factor

Wednesday at approximately 9:00 a.m., officers from the Indiana State Police and the Tipton County Sheriff’s Department responded to a two vehicle crash on U.S. 31 at County Road 600 South, in which two Indiana men were injured.

 

The preliminary crash investigation by Master Trooper Lee Williams revealed that Andrew Paschal, 29, Anderson, IN was driving a 2005 Ford SUV westbound on Tipton County Road 600 South, approaching a stop sign at the intersection Of U.S. 31. Paschal allegedly failed to stop for the sign at the intersection, and pulled into the path of a northbound 2019 Chevrolet pickup truck. The Chevrolet, driven by Eric Woker, 42, Greenfield, IN hit the Ford in the driver’s side door.

 

Paschal was transported, via ambulance, to an Indianapolis hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Woker was treated at the crash scene for lacerations and bruising.

 

There was dense fog in the area at the time of the crash.  Also, further investigation revealed Paschal was allegedly driving with a suspended operator’s license.

 

This crash is still under investigation, but at this time neither the use of alcohol nor narcotics is suspected as having contributed to the crash.

 

INDOT to close portion of U.S. 52 to replace bridge; Road to close March 30

The Indiana Department of Transportation will close a portion of U.S. 52 to replace the bridge over West Little Sugar Creek. 

 

After unknown utilities were relocated, the closure is scheduled to begin at the end of the month on March 30.

 

Contractors will close both directions of U.S. 52 between CR S 600 W and CR S 550 W.

 

The portion of U.S. 52 will be closed for 120 days as contractors replace the bridge. 

 

 

During the closure, drivers are encouraged to take the detour route. The official detour will be I-465 NB to U.S. 40 EB to S.R. 9 SB back to U.S. 52. 

Bentley passed away; sparked kids reading program

It’s been said a dog is man’s best friend, and in the case of Bentley, that was absolutely true.


However, there was one main difference – the 94 pound Great Pyrenees was a child’s best friend as he was the Bentley in Bentley’s Buddies and Friends, a reading program aimed at helping children across Hancock County.


Bentley, who was 10, passed away recently, according to his owner, Nickie Scott. Bentley had developed a blood disorder and pancreatitis. Scott and her husband had Bentley for a little over eight years.


After helping to develop another reading program in neighboring Hamilton County, Scott started a reading program at St. Michael’s Catholic School in Greenfield.


“The program didn’t grow like we had hoped in Greenfield, so I left the group. My husband told me if I wanted to continue then he would back me if we wanted to start our own program in Hancock County. So we started out of my home with one dog and four classrooms. Five-and-a-half years later, we are 40 dogs strong and in over 40 classrooms,” said Scott, who guesses more than 10,000 students took part in Bentley’s Buddies and Friends, which is aimed at aiming children with dogs and working on boosting students’ reading skills and confidence.


Scott told Giant FM Bentley “loved everything about his job.”


“He loved dressing up on those special days and stealing marshmallows when nobody was looking. He loved all the pets and kisses he received and loved giving the love back with a gently paced paw on a reader. He loved the animal crackers he would get from a classroom, until he discovered he could hold out and they would give him biscotti cookies,” Scott told Giant FM.


And, he even loved training other dogs to be a reading buddy and reaching as many children as they could.


“He enjoyed making others happy, and that is how he lived his life. The pure joy of watching him interact with the public was pure magic. He never missed a beat,” Scott said.


As for how Bentley will be remembered, Scott said that is easy.


“I think B will be remembered as a furry friend, who believed in you, a leader who changed a community by just being himself and a role model on being kind and treating people with the respect they deserve,” she told Giant FM.


With Bentley’s passing, Scott said there are no plans to discontinue the program.


“Bentley’s Buddies and Friends will go on as long as kids need help reading and reading buddies are available. He has left us a wonderful legacy and path for the future. I will not disappoint him and will strive to make him proud,” Scott told Giant FM. 

Greenfield-Central schools with confirmed COVID-19 case

A Greenfield-Central schools employee has tested positive for COVID-19.


According to the Hancock County Health Department, a teacher at Greenfield Intermediate School has tested positive. The teacher is not a resident of Hancock County and last had contact with students on March 9, according to district officials.


District officials stated they were unable to name the employee nor are they able to disclose further information at this time.


“Health Department officials have noted that concerned individuals should remain in self-quarantine until March 23,” the district said in a letter sent to staff and families.


The health department is asking anyone to contact them at 317-477-1125 as they work to identify anyone who may have come into contact with the employee on March 9.

In split vote New Pal Town Council approves censuring clerk-treasurer.

An already rocky relationship between the New Palestine Town Council and its clerk-treasurer took an even more interesting turn Wednesday night as council narrowly voted in favor of censuring Tonii Pyle, the town’s clerk-treasurer.


Councilman Bill Niemier made the motion, laying out several issues the council has had with Pyle since January, alleging that Pyle has “engaged in conduct and actions that are contrary to, and directly interfere with, the orderly functioning of Town business.”


“The residents of New Palestine deserve better and such deficiencies need to be documented. If Tonii Pyle were an employee of the Town, I would be moving that her employment be terminated, but that is not an available option as she is an elected official. Therefore, my motion, based upon these facts and circumstances, is that the Town Council formally censure Tonii Pyle. Although there may be few practical implications from being formally censured, and the same cannot and does not remove Tonii Pyle from her elected position as the Clerk-Treasurer, such motion does in fact create a formal and permanent record of Tonii Pyle’s failure to properly perform the functions of her elected office,” Niemier said shortly before the vote.


Council voted 3-2 in favor of censuring Pyle. Council members Angie Fahrnow and Brandee Bastin joined Niemier in favor of voting yes, while council members Clint Bledsoe and Jan Jarson voted no.


In laying out his motion, Niemier said Pyle’s behavior is unacceptable.


“Tonii Pyle’s conduct and actions do not meet reasonable standards for acceptable behavior… She has also requested Walker IT to engage in activities that served no town interest and, in fact, were intended to collect evidence to be used in litigation against the Town Council.

Specifically, I am referring to Tonii Pyle requesting security camera footage be retrieved from Bob Ehle’s computer, while Bob was not in his office, for her own personal interests and not the town’s interests,” Niemier said.


Niemier further explained that Pyle’s actions resulted in the town council to adopt a security camera access policy and that Walker IT submitted an invoice for payment and that he believed Pyle should pay for the invoice.


Pyle said she had asked for the information and it was Walker IT who came in with a USB port and said they could get the information.


“I said okay and he downloaded it onto Bob’s computer with his permission while he wasn’t here. And, I followed up with him in the morning, and he explained to me the proper policy and procedures. I was not aware of that, and that is now being followed,” Pyle told council.


Fahrnow immediately countered by saying Ehle was not aware of what was being taken off his computer, and Pyle said she was not going to get into that discussion.


Niemier then asked Ehle if he had received a request to access security footage and was it presented as such. Ehle said no such discussion ever happened.


“No. I was contacted Mr. Robinson that they needed to get there. We had just received quotes for camera systems and he said something about getting footage. I assumed he was talking about the measuring because they were talking about putting different cameras elsewhere. Jim said they needed to get over there, and I informed him one of my officers was next door. So I was already off work. He had left on a run so my door was already locked and secured. It was remote access… When I came in the next morning there was a file folder on my desktop that says for Tonii. I did not know what it was and did not know what the download was,” Ehle said.
Niemier asked had the request of been properly request what would have been Ehle’s response.


“It would have been denied,” Ehle said.

Council voted 3-2 in favor of not paying the invoice and having Pyle personally pay for it. Jarson and Bledsoe voted against the measure.


In addition, Niemier also explained that Pyle has created barriers as to the free flow of information and documentation between her office and to council regarding public records and demanding that council members submit a public records request for all documents.


“Such procedures are not uniformly applied to all document requests. Specifically, council member Angie Fahrnow has requested minutes and contracts regarding the use of our sewer plant and testing performed at our sewer plant and those documents still have not been provided. However, Tonii Pyle requested that at least one town employee, and, perhaps, more than one town employee, search for such documents. Such documents were in fact located and provided to Tonii’s father-in-law, Dave Book, even though he did not submit a public records request in order to receive these documents,” Niemier said.


He continued that Pyle has refused to make changes in a town employee’s salary despite the council passing an ordinance more than a month and a half ago.


Fahrnow said it is now her hope that council and Pyle will be able to co-exist.


“My hope is she will begin cooperating with the council and those involved in a positive, constructive manner. Nobody is perfect, but the key is whether we learn from our mistakes and are able to make things right going forward. My hope is she is able and wanting to take this approach,” Fahrnow told Giant FM.

New Palestine fires town manager amid controversy, investigation

For 30 years, David Book had been an employee for the town of New Palestine.


All that came crashing down Wednesday night with a 5-0 decision by the town council to terminate Book, who has been the center of controversy in recent months.


Book, who has been on medical leave since January, came under fire earlier this year when it was discovered that New Palestine had missed out on hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Indiana Department of Transportation due to several of the town’s roads missing from the road inventory.
However, recently, town officials learned Book had been using town equipment and supplies to run a wastewater management business in addition to his duties as town manager. There is no record of Book being granted the opportunity to use the town’s equipment and the Indiana State Police are currently investigating.


Town officials were tipped off about the business when Book asked town employees if they wanted to buy his business for $10,000.


On Wednesday, it all came to a head when councilman Bill Niemier introduced a motion calling for the immediate termination of Book.


In making his motion, Niemier said that Book was in violation of the Town of New Palestine Policy and Procedure Employee Handbook, Section Five, in the following manner: unprofessional behavior while performing job duties; neglect of duty; failure to follow established work procedures and policies; Interfering with the productivity of other employees; conducting personal business while on duty; insubordination; blatant disrespect of town council members and fellow employees; improper use of town property, equipment and employees; providing false or misleading information to the town council; gross misconduct; gross incompetence; and endorsing or recommending a political candidate on town property.


Niemier also asked that all of Book’s personal belongings to be boxed up and delivered directly to him and that he not be allowed to be present when these items are gathered.


“Finally, I move that David Book be directed to immediately deliver to Bob Ehle, Chief of the New Palestine Police Department, any and all town property of any kind whatsoever, including but not limited to vehicles; keys to any and all buildings, vehicles or any and all types of locks or padlocks; computers and computer passwords; documents, files and records including Sewer Plant bank account ledgers, checkbooks or all other sewer plant documentation and records; access codes; telephones or other electronic devices; and any and all other town property,” Niemier said.


Book was in attendance at the meeting and was asked by council members if he had anything he wished to say.


“No. Wouldn’t do any good,” Book replied before leaving shortly after the vote.


Niemier told Giant FM the meeting was “very tough” for all involved, but was necessary.


“Nobody signed up for this. It was a very tough meeting. Council has to do what’s in the best interest for the town, and sometimes, that is a hard thing to do,” Niemier told Giant FM after the meeting.
Fellow council member Angie Fahrnow told Giant FM all the actions by Book left council little choice.
“There were a number of issues that brought his employment into question, but when he admitted to running a business for personal gain without council approval, that made our options very limited,” Fahrnow told Giant FM.


While Book has been on leave, Jim Robinson has been serving as the interim town manager.
Giant FM asked Niemier if Robinson would be made the permanent town manager in the wake of what happened to Book and Niemier replied, “Council will have to look at what it is we want.”
Council member Jan Jarson said New Palestine has endured a rough period recently.


“This has been a very rough time for all of us. It is very emotional. I don’t know what else to say. I never thought we’d be in this situation,” Jarson said.  

Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen still serving thru carry-out service

With so much uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak in Hancock County, one organization is doing their part to ensure residents are taken care of.


The Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen is ensuring residents in need have food to eat, as they are offering carry out meals Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Patrons can pick up the meals at the east front door and are asked to line up in front of the building. The dining room, as well as the free table and free refrigerator are currently off limits to the general population, according to Jill Ebbert, executive director.


Ebbert told Giant FM the soup kitchen has seen a “steady” line of people all week.


“It has been pretty good. People are adjusting to it. It is not ideal, but people are getting food, and that is what matters,” Ebbert told Giant FM.


Ebbert acknowledged the facility has seen an uptick in need during the outbreak and is glad to be able to help.


“We will do it until it is all over. We have no contact with patrons, and we are keeping our distance and disinfecting everything. Our donors have been phenomenal, and have really stepped up to help us out. For some, this is the only option. I am praying we can continue to serve and have what we need,” Ebbert said.


Ebbert said the soup kitchen is in need of food, cleaning products, paper products and bottled water and can be dropped off between 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then from 1 p.m. until 3:30 p.m.


“We will get through this, and we will continue to keep people fed until they tell us we can’t,” Ebbert told Giant FM.  

New Palestine closes town buildings

Effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, all buildings owned by the Town of New Palestine, including Town Hall, Wastewater Management Plant, and Nichols Building are closed to the public during normal business hours due to the current COVID-19 pandemic until further notice.

 

We ask that members of the public conduct business with town staff via telephone or email during our normal business hours Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm.

 

The telephone number for Town Hall is 317-861-4727.

 

As of now, we will still be holding public meetings as scheduled, but seating may be limited per State and Federal guidelines, including those issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Any events scheduled in our Community Room will be cancelled for the next 30 days and refunds will be issued accordingly. As always, sewer payments can be made and deposited in the secure drop box located in the drive thru lane on the west side of Town Hall.

 

Thank you for your cooperation and understanding during this time.

Sen Crider talks COVID-19, Hancock County

As Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb was announcing the state’s first death from COVID-19, state senator Mike Crider was reminding Hancock County residents of the importance of adhering to warnings surrounding the disease.


“I ask that people take the threat seriously,” Crider told Giant FM.


Crider knows a thing or two about disasters, having run the disaster management system at Hancock Health and having experience pertaining to what a surge in cases could mean.


“I know what a challenge a surge of patients causes, especially when the surge effect isn’t from a local event and is widespread,” he said.


Crider is confident Hancock Health and other hospitals are prepared, should individuals begin showing up in emergency rooms and need care due to a huge outbreak in Indiana.


“All hospitals I am aware of are well prepared to handle mass casualty events and have agreements with other systems to take diverted patients when they are at capacity, but the challenge is respiratory in nature and the infection is widespread, the ability to handle it is extra stressed,” Crider told Giant FM.


Crider told Giant FM it is imperative the flattening of the curve and social isolation are discussions that happen.


As for Holcomb announcing the closure of restaurants and bars and banning in-person large events, Crider said it is part of it.


“The governor has extensive powers during a declared emergency that include both waiving laws like he has done to allow truck drivers to exceed their operating hour limitations by executive order and to restrict activities that will compromise the ability to contain the situation. I think he and others have done a good job,” Crider said.